Sabbatical: The Saturday After

It was a good month. A very good month. Memorable in many ways. I was asked Thursday what was the best highlight. I gave an answer, but I could give you a different answer if you asked me today.

Rather than do highlights, here is the end of my journal entry from 10/30:

The lessons I take away from this month are:

  1. Grace is so needed in this world. I need to give more of it.
  2. People are very lonely in this world. I can offer them hope through my obedience to serve and to give my time, talents, and respect. 
  3. God has what people need in this world. They can find it through various methods-church, community, music, dance, family, books, new friendships, similar connections, and jobs where they can love people. 
  4. There is much to be in awe of in this world. But it shouldn’t replace my awe for the one responsible for all of it. 

For a bonus thought, I’ll share this note from my morning run today. In my first few miles, I wasn’t necessarily feeling it. I thought 7.5 may do it today, although I needed to do more. However, the more I ran the better my legs felt making me think double digit miles were possible after all (I was wearing Alabama socks…gotta be it). I ended up getting just over 10 done and felt good following. It reminded me of Sabbatical race #3 in Dover. 

Here’s the deal: our minds are a tool. They can beat us up or tear us down. Controlling the self talk in our head determines if we’ll finish strong or finish at all. 

Bottom line: Own Your Mind.

Photos to illustrate: 

Following mile 1 in Dover. Thought: “How will these next 12 miles go?”


Finish Line in Dover. Thought: “Thanks, God. We owned those last miles.”

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Sabbatical: Race #3

Delaware ✔

Yesterday morning at 7am around 400 runners gathered at the Dover International Speedway to run 13.1 or 26.2 miles. 
2:00:04 later, I’d checked off state 15. 

Last week a non-longdistancerunning friend asked me what I think about while running. So Mark, here’s a rewind as best I remember. 

M1 This is cool, running on the speedway, but not ideal. Stay slow until we leave the track.

M2 10:04 was a little slow. Let’s pick it up. Pass the guy in the Bama hat and say, “Roll Tide.”

M3-5 This is a nice neighborhood. Check out these old houses. Feeling good. Decent pace. Keep it through 5.

M6 Almost half done. Overall pace 9:27. Push to drop that by at least a second every remaining mile. End goal, finish with 9:15 pace. 

M7 There go the full marathoners. Now the mental game really kicks in. We’re not in the city anymore. Don’t let the pace slow because there aren’t as many runners around you. Stay with these two runners; they have a good pace.

M8 They slowed down, admitted they went out too fast. Move on. That millennial that just passed me will be the last person to pass me.

M9-10 Keep slowly picking off each of the group of five ahead. You might have a shot at catching the 2-hour group.

M11 These Alabama compression socks rock. This weather rocks. This course rocks. I can beat last weekend’s times. What is going on?

M12 Where is that 2-hour pacer? Oh, there he is. PUSH!

M13 No one told me the steepest hill was at the end. Get over it. Fly down the other side. You have done a negative split. I NEED ICE CREAM!

(There you have it. Below is the proof of states 13-15.)

Sabbatical: Race #2

Kentucky ✔

I found the Iron Horse Half Marathon race online. It is slated as a top destination race by Runner’s World. I now know why.

Midway, Kentucky isn’t far from downtown Lexington. Population, less than 2000. They may have as many horses. And this morning, it seemed about half the town was running the race.

The course really was picturesque. If you are a horselover and a runner, you should schedule this race. Be advised, it’s hilly. But you’ll be glad you did it. You feel like you are spending the morning on the horse farm. Very unique setting.

As for my “performance,” this was a test. How would I do running two halves back to back? How prepared was I? Would I manage myself well before, during, and after both races? 

I give myself a 90%. Surprisingly my thighs are worse off than my calves. I’ll take these two results happily and move on to State #15, possibly this next Saturday. Stay tuned

Sabbatical: Race #1

Indiana✔

Almost 1,600 of us converged on the streets of Evansville, Indiana, at 7amCST to run 13.1 miles. I finished in 2:03:31. Pleased with that.

EVENT REVIEW:

Everything about this race was done very well. 

  • Packet pickup was easy to find and speedy. (We got buckets along with our goodie bags…still not sure why)
  • Race parking was a breeze-plenty of it, and I unknowingly parked one block from the start line. Unheard of. 
  • The course was mostly flat-perfect for Floridians. It weaved nicely through neighborhoods and parks. 
  • The community presence was great. Very few areas weren’t covered with spectators, volunteers, first aid, or policemen.
  • Plenty of encouragement and refreshments at the finish line. Shout out to the announcer for calling out “John Gregory from Bradenton, Florida” repeatedly until the crowd cheered.

PERFORMANCE REVIEW: 

  • If I weren’t running again in the morning, I probably could have pushed to get under 2 hours. Good to know.
  • My pace stayed pretty steady through 10M. 57-degree start had a lot to do with that.
  • I surprised myself being able to pick up the pace the last half mile. Assimilating that on the treadmill pays off.
  • Shout out to Holly and another young lady who unknowingly paced me from miles 9-11. Strong job, Ladies.
  • State 13 done. On to 14 tomorrow. (Bucket list item: run a race in every state)

Obstacles: Sometimes You Have to be Your Own Generator

It’s been two weeks since Irma. Much continues to happen around the world with natural disasters. In our town, we haven’t had to deal with the devastation of other places. Regardless of how impactful the storm, one thing is true for anyone living in a post-storm world: things aren’t normal. Normal has been replaced, if not permanently, at least temporarily.

This was clear the first day I went for a run. It was Tuesday morning, not much longer than 24 hours post-storm.

As odd as it sounds, I literally had to tell myself that it was okay to go for a run. I’m sure to many it would have been the furtherest thing from their mind. To me, it was what I should do. It is my routine, and I should do it even if I didn’t want to or questioned if I should.

I did a 5.7-mile route through West Bradenton. A little darker than usual, even for early morning hours. Darkened street lights, humming generators, and impassable sidewalks were obstacles to my normal carefree run. Watching traffic on Cortez Road between 51st and 75th was interesting; actually on this entire route it was. Non-working traffic lights (5 out of 9) were catching many drivers offguard. They were having to pay more attention because routine was broken.

When routine is broken, when there are obstacles in life to doing what we are accustomed to doing, it can be quite jolting, to some life-altering. All of these things I noticed on my run were simple examples of obstacles that post-storm living presents. And if you allow them to, these obstacles can appear overwhelming and unnavigable. They can appear to be.

If the appearance grips us with fear, we would do well to step back and let our brains catch up to our emotions. Our brains can help us see…

  • …taking a shower by flashlight is doable.
  • …if you don’t know how to do something, most likely you know someone who does.
  • …a new routine will take more time…so leave earlier for work, allow more grace to other drivers, and expect the unexpected.
  • …the obstacle may not be addressable in the desired timeframe. That’s okay. Give time to yourself and to others to get it addressed in a safe and wise manner.
  • …obstacles don’t automatically mean you can’t do your thing.  They may just cause you to have to figure out a different way.
  • …like many pre-storm days, the best motivation is self-motivation. Sometimes you have to be your own generator.

The Night Before

It’s after 8pm. So being an obedient Manatee County resident, I’m off the streets. Waiting.

Marathon runners know what this feels like. You’ve prepped all you can for your race. You’ve laid everything out for the next morning. The alarm is set; you know because you’ve checked it a gazillion times. You’ve stretched, or not. You’ve attached your race bib, or not. You’ve prepared your liquids, or not. You most certainly have eaten your last meal and properly hydrated. And now you wait. The long night has started; and if it’s your first 26.1, it will most likely feel like the longest night of your life.

You make yourself go to bed; and after about an hour of asking yourself ridiculous questions about tomorrow, you somehow fall asleep…only to wake up thinking the alarm didn’t work because surely the night is over, but the clock says it’s been less than two hours. If you’re lucky, you’ll repeat this cycle a couple of times. And each time you ask yourself another question before falling asleep, “Why can’t I stay asleep?”

And from my experience, here’s the answer-anticipation of the unknown. 

  • Can I make it the full distance?
  • What if it starts raining?
  • They say you hit a wall at mile 18. What does that feel like?
  • Did my training plan really prepare me?
  • How will I feel when it’s over?

These questions can go on and on. And they probably will until the race startgun sounds. And then, for the most part, after about mile two, they stop. You’re not normal if they don’t return at some point during the race, but you find a way to cross the finish line.

So here’s to the night before. You’ve done all you can. Followed your game plan. Put your trust in the right hands. Prayed for endurance to last all the way to the finish line. 

It will come. One way or another, it will come. 

But right now, it’s the night before. And you wait. 

Think about that finish line. It will come.

When Has God Spoken to You (Journal Exercise Suggestion)

The back was too tight to do a morning run this morning (that’s what stretching and treadmill runs later in the day are for); so instead, God and I had a longer than usual conversation.

During the conversation I got a pretty clear message of something I am to do this week. Receiving that message made me ask this question, “If I made a list of the ‘big, writing-on-the-wall’ messages I’ve gotten from God in my life, what would that include?” 

Seemed like a good exercise, so I did it before I left for the office. As it turns out, in 30 years of adult living, I’d say I’ve received nine such messages. To be clear, “Be nice to idiots is not a ‘big’ message.” The daily messages we receive from the Holy Spirit are nothing more than atuning ourselves to communicating with Him regularly. A big message is something like, “Change your career path,” “I promise you if you’ll stop saying ‘no’ to me about this direction you’ll be 100% satisfied,” or “You’ve been waiting for the green light. Here it is.”

You might call these markers. Markers are specific times or places in our lives where significant things happen. Sure, your wedding day, your child’s birthday, and other physical events are markers. This intentional, spiritual exercise makes you think about your conversations-with-God markers. They can remind you who has been for you, where he has been with you, and what he has done through you.

So what are you waiting for? Get a blank page in front of you. Answer the question. You never know; another “big” message might be ready to get marked.

But I Don’t Want To

One reality to living alone-if you don’t do the chores, ain’t nobody else going to either. As a task-oriented guy, not usually a big deal.

But then there’s these two things: mopping and dusting. What is it with these two? Does anyone else dislike them as much as I do? I won’t tell you my lack of getting them done in order to protect my reputation of being neat and tidy.

I’ve noticed something else. There are also some spiritual disciplines that I have the same problem with. Just like house chores, some spiritual disciplines are just more enjoyable, easier, or natural. Yet, when I make myself do the less enjoyable ones, just like when I dust or mop, I’m glad I did. Like the reflection of mopped tile, my soul feels cleaner and more reflective of God.

So how do we tackle these “but I don’t want to” chores and disciplines? It doesn’t seem to work to wait until the mood strikes or to just suck it up and grudgingly put them on the to do list, on which they seem to easily get bumped down. I’m not sure what would work for you, but I can tell you what happened today to cause me to dust. I decided I wanted to see clean, to see a reflection more than anything else. It comes down to choice, to wanting better, to having the end in mind, to not settling for easy. My want has to change.

The example I can draw from in a different area of my life is running. Right now, I’m back to running 20+ miles a week-haven’t been there in almost 4 years. I’m doing that to build a foundation that will prepare me to train for the longest race in my life next year. I want to run this race. I don’t always want to get up in the dark and run. I don’t always want to endure the summer humidity. But when I remember the end in mind, I get up and hit the road. And I’m glad I did when I finish.

What’s your end game? What do you need to decide you want in order to do what you don’t want to do? Nail it down. You’ll be glad you did.

Good Crying

Crying. When you think of that action, most likely you think of something bad or sad happening. It ain’t good if you’re crying.

During a segment on 60 Minutes tonight, a NASA engineer described going home the night after a stressful but successful project of landing Curiosity, a car-sized robotic rover exploring Gale Crater on Mars. He said, “I crawled into bed with my wife and wept.” He didn’t sound sad at all. He sounded joyfully spent, exhaustedly happy. 

Have you ever experienced that kind of crying? You might call it having a good cry. I’ve had some. One that particularly comes to mind was at the end of my last marathon in 2012. I tried to control it, but there was no controlling it. I was joyfully spent, exhaustedly happy.

What are you working on that you are so committed to that when it’s over you could have a good cry? What life mission are you following that makes you have a good cry occasionally? When was your last good cry?

Go after being joyfully spent. Go after good crying.

Running Tuesdays: My Recovery Gadgets

I have issues. And I have solutions.

Main issue-tight muscles. Issue number one is tight calf muscles. So, more and more I’m relying on heat and ice to fight off injury-ice after the run, heat in between runs. This gel pack is one of the best items I’ve received in a race goodie bag. So useful. 

This item, called The Stick, works for muscles all over the body. It is a daily solution, particularly for my legs. Worth every penny.

For my neck and any other trigger points, this item works wonders. It’s called The Trigger Wheel.

These are a few of the items that keep me on the road. What keeps you moving?